Column by Gérard Bérubé: welcome salary increase

Janet Yellen called the upward pressure on wages from the labor shortage “good for workers” on Wednesday.

“In a way, it’s good to see wages increase and working conditions improve for people working in low-wage sectors of the economy. It is something that we wanted to accomplish for a long time, underlined the secretary of the Treasury, on the channel MSNBC. “Many workers in the service sector have suffered from chronically low wages, working conditions and insufficient social benefits,” reads a text from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Moreover, the jobs most affected are at the bottom of the salary scale, particularly in the catering, childcare and transport sectors. In Canada, the Third Quarter Consumer Expectations Survey released by the Bank of Canada this week shows that wage expectations are up to peak among those with less education while they have fallen slightly among those with less education. a higher level of education.

CVS pharmacies, Target stores, Chipotle restaurants have crossed the US $ 15 an hour mark. At Amazon, hourly wages have risen to an average of US $ 18 for new hires, rising to US $ 21, with hiring bonuses of up to US $ 3,000. Walmart now offers 12 to 17 US dollars an hour to hire, with an average hourly wage of 16.40 US dollars, AFP lists. For a Biden government that has had to give up its federal minimum wage target of US $ 15, this turn in one aspect of the pandemic is welcome.

However, if in the south as in the north of the border it is recognized that there is tension on the labor market, analysts are skeptical with regard to the decoupling between the sectoral shortage and the reading of the state of health of the the job market. Certainly, employment has returned to its pre-pandemic level in Canada. There are still twice as many long-term unemployed as in February 2020, the rate of labor underutilization remains stubbornly higher, and the employment rate remains below its pre-pandemic level. In the United States, they are still 2.6 million to receive wage compensation while it is estimated that the end of additional benefits paid in response to the health crisis affects 7.5 million people. And the US economy has still not recovered some 5.3 million of the 20 million jobs destroyed by the pandemic.

Refusal to work

the New York Times resumed this week the comments of observers for whom the shortage of manpower could be a shortage of “workers refusing to work under the same conditions as before the pandemic”. For many, the financial cushion accumulated during the pandemic, fueled by government income support programs, savings resulting from lower spending and inflation in assets, stock markets and real estate, would allow them to delay their income. return to the job market and look for better jobs or conditions. Others, older, would simply choose not to come back.

This game of rebalancing the balance of power was observed in the results of the Bank of Canada surveys. More workers are considering the possibility of voluntarily leaving their job and changing industry. Almost one in five respondents believe such a scenario is likely in the next year, seeking better work hours, more attractive career opportunities and higher wages.

Also, just over a third of job seekers and half of the unemployed say they want to find a job in another sector than the one in which they are currently working. “Workers in sectors that pay less or have been hit hard by the pandemic […] are more likely to change industry, ”the survey read.

Recent data from Statistics Canada also indicated that the number of people who left their jobs voluntarily in the previous 12 months and remained unemployed during the reference week of the Labor Force Survey was 269,000. in September, which is 119,000, or 30.7%, lower than the number observed in September 2019. “This may be an indication that factors involved in voluntarily leaving a job, such as the ability to moving elsewhere or the confidence of finding a job in a different field, could be different from what they were before the pandemic, ”explained the federal agency.

In the process, the job change rate – 0.8% in August – had returned to its pre-pandemic level, after falling to near zero in May 2020.

In its 2022 salary forecasts published at the end of September, the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ) pointed out that, in a context of inflation and labor shortage, the pressure on wages is being confirmed: employers of Quebec plan to grant an average salary increase between 2.9% and 3.1% in 2022 (excluding freezes). “It’s more generous than the Canadian average,” said the CPQ.

And if 10% of employers had recourse to wage freezes in 2021, they are only 5% to predict this for 2022.

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